Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Alumni Club

Colleges, universities and high schools all have alumni associations to stay connected with their graduates. The organizations give the former students an avenue in which they can find out about the latest news from their old schools. Even if they never go back for a reunion or other function, the alumni can stay in tune with their old campus, favorite professors and former classmates.

The benefit to the schools, of course, is that they have a built-in group to tap for fund-raising and advocacy purposes. Who better to tap than people who already have a vested interest in your institution?

So why don't other organizations create alumni groups? We've all had jobs where we left (on our own terms) and we still have old friends and an interest in the well-being of the company. And most companies are in the business of friend-raising -- finding a few people to speak on their behalf at the local city council meeting or with other groups. And every non-profit organization is certainly looking for more "financial prospects" to cultivate.

Why not start at home? No, I don't think former employees are especially anxious to be hit up for money by their former employer, but if the workers left on good terms and a good experience, then it makes sense for companies to keep the bridge intact. When somebody leaves a company, they clearly have a different view than they did when they worked there. Perhaps that input can be valuable.

Of course, this approach doesn't work for everybody, but it still makes sense. Several years ago the Los Angeles Dodgers held a reunion for former and retired employees. Former owner Peter O'Malley hosted the event at Blair Field in Long Beach at a Long Beach Armada baseball game. The team plays in the independent Golden Baseball League, but nobody really cared about the action on the field. The fun was in visiting with former co-workers. The setting was different, but it was much like going back to a high school reunion. Former front office personnel traded stories with ex-players and coaches, just like the walls seem to come down between the high school band geeks and cheerleaders at their reunions. It was a great way to bring people back.

No, the Dodgers don't have an alumni association for former employees, but they do have one for former players. They go to reunions and things like that, and some of them are part of the team's speakers' bureau (at least they used to be a couple of ownerships ago).

I'd love to see the same thing at Fairplex. I'd go to the reunions and speak on behalf of the organization. And if it was done right, I'd likely give a few bucks, too.

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